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Ground water

Simulating conservative tracers in fractured till under realistic timescales.


PMID 16324009

Abstract

Discrete-fracture and dual-porosity models are infrequently used to simulate solute transport through fractured unconsolidated deposits, despite their more common application in fractured rock where distinct flow regimes are hypothesized. In this study, we apply four fracture transport models--the mobile-immobile model (MIM), parallel-plate discrete-fracture model (PDFM), and stochastic and deterministic discrete-fracture models (DFMs)--to demonstrate their utility for simulating solute transport through fractured till. Model results were compared to breakthrough curves (BTCs) for the conservative tracers potassium bromide (KBr), pentafluorobenzoic acid (PFBA), and 1,4-piperazinediethanesulfonic acid (PIPES) in a large-diameter column of fractured till. Input parameters were determined from independent field and laboratory methods. Predictions of Br BTCs were not significantly different among models; however, the stochastic and deterministic DFMs were more accurate than the MIM or PDFM when predicting PFBA and PIPES BTCs. DFMs may be more applicable than the MIM for tracers with small effective diffusion coefficients (De) or for short timescales due to differences in how these models simulate diffusion or incorporate heterogeneities by their fracture networks. At large scales of investigation, the more computationally efficient MIM and PDFM may be more practical to implement than the three-dimensional DFMs, or a combination of model approaches could be employed. Regardless of the modeling approach used, fractures should be incorporated routinely into solute transport models in glaciated terrain.

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